Objection to the Removal of the Assizes from Ballinrobe, Co Mayo - 1820

At the Police Court, Ballinrobe. Magisterial Examination of Rioters on a charge of threatening Captain Boycott. Interior of upper floor of Market House
The Graphic Newspaper, London,Dec. 1880

In a letter from Lord Tyrawly, to William H Gregory, Under Secretary of Ireland, Dublin Castle, he expresses a strong objection to the removal of the assizes from  Ballinrobe to Castlebar, ‘a Tale of woe that harrows up my Soul’.

A letter was enclosed from Courtney Kenny, Ballinrobe, County Mayo, to Charles Knox, Castle Lackin, County Mayo, reflecting on reported alteration of assizes venue, with observation ‘such a step would be fatal to the Town and a serious draw back both upon the Consequence and value of Lord Tyrawly’s Property’; also enclosed was another letter from George Melvin, Dublin, to Tyrawly, indicating that the next assizes has been ‘posted’ for Castlebar, the reasons given being a need for accommodation for the judges and inadequate jail facilities to hold prisoners at Ballinrobe.

Ref: NAI Reference – CSO/RP/1820/1231

Michael O’Connor give us the details of the County Mayo Assizes – Late 18th & 19th Cs.

The Assizes in Mayo typically took place in late March & late July.

The Assizes commenced when the judges (usually two in number) arrived in town. The Assizes dealt with the fiscal, civil and criminal (serious crimes only) business of the county.

Following the conclusion of the fiscal business (basically matters to do with the running of the county), the judges turned their attention to the trial of criminal and civil cases. The judges worked in parallel but the civil cases tended to take less time and when they concluded both judges would concentrate on the criminal cases.

Trials usually took 3/4 days and sentencing was also concluded before the judges left town. It was not unusual to have up on 70 or 80 cases tried. On occasion, there were up to 50 capital crimes tried.

The judges came and went under military or police escort. If there was a possibility of death sentences then a hangman would usually follow them into town. Assizes were very formal affairs bound up in tradition, custom and ritual. Where there were no death sentences, the Assizes was labelled a maiden one and the judges received white gloves from the county. If it was not a maiden Assizes, the judges donned a black cap as they pronounced death sentences.

In the late 18th c and for much of the 19th c., the Assizes alternated between a Castlebar and Ballinrobe. As the numbers tried grew, use of Ballinrobe was questioned due to its poor gaol facilities and lack of suitable accommodation for the judiciary. Less serious crimes were tried at petty sessions and quarter sessions around the county.

By Michael O’Connor – https://www.facebook.com/michael.oconnor.5621

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *